I just finished reading Jessica Trujillo’s great blog post about Emerging Leaders. It made me remember the time that I applied for a leadership institute, and was accepted as an alternative. An alternative to what, I asked myself. It was only months later that they said, oh, by the way, we found room for you. But by then, the budget opportunity was gone, and I was unable to attend. There went my chance to be on that Library Journal “movers and shakers” poster. There went my chance to be a leader, I thought. But, being a Leo, and a natural-born leader, I did not give up.
Instead, I now realize, I followed my own leaders. I had the great fortune to have a boss who recognized potential, and made me go to Management Training classes, even though, at the time, I was not a manager. And I do mean MADE me. When Eva said I was signed up, I whined. “Do I have to?” She told me in no uncertain terms that it was an opportunity, not a chore. I went. Several resumes and job interviews later, I can say, yes, I have attended management training. And for all the whining and complaining I did, I really did learn something from those classes. Eva Calcagno was a great boss – we did not work in the same building, so I never had her breathing over my shoulder. But that’s not why she was great. She pushed me into doing jobs I did not want to do (Budget—that’s not fun! Where’s the glitter in doing a budget???); she gave me opportunities to lead, and however grudgingly at the time, I did learn from them. Thanks, Eva!
My other good fortune was to be Ellen Fader’s colleague. Ellen was never my boss, so she couldn’t force me into anything. But I quickly recognized the leader in this powerhouse of a woman, and followed her like a little duckling. I ended up on state committees with her; wormed my way into the book group she started, and found not only a leader, but also a friend. I watched Ellen and then Multnomah County Library director, Ginnie Cooper at public events such as author readings or television interviews, and I learned. Those are some media savvy gals, and I took notes. At ALA conferences, Ellen introduced me to the plethora of people she knows, and I learned to network. When Ellen asks hard questions, you listen and learn. Hard questions are hard to answer but they are even harder to ask correctly. Ellen, you are my hero.
So if you cannot attend the leadership institutes that ALSC hosts (but keep trying, like Jessica did), or the ones your regional library associations put together, don’t despair. Look around you. There’s bound to be a leader nearby, one that you can learn from, one that will gladly take you under wing and teach you to be a leader in your own right.